At the outset of any divorce case comes the big “how much will this cost me?” question. It is a completely fair question, and one I would ask myself. It’s the same reason we look for a price sticker on a product at the store before getting in line to buy it. We like to know if it is in our budget and how to plan ahead if it is something we need.
However, don’t be surprised if an attorney will not tell you a sum certain. In fact, if an attorney does tell you a specific amount and guarantees a result for a certain dollar amount (unless the representation is limited to drafting documents or reviewing a final settlement only), you might want check with other attorneys in town to compare. The reason that most attorneys cannot tell you an exact amount (although, those of use who have done this for a while can estimate fairly accurately after an initial consultation) is that divorces can range from less than $1,000 into the hundreds of thousands, because there are many factors at play, often factors totally outside the control of your attorney and you (although some factors are within your control as well).
There is no easy way to predict your total cost, but there are various factors that can affect the cost. Here are some things you might want to keep in mind if cost is a question (which it always should be):
- You – you are the biggest factor in how much your divorce case will cost. By providing your attorney with all the information, concisely, organized, and efficiently, your attorney will save valuable time strategizing and organizing your case.
- Your Attorney – finding the right attorney to work with is vital. The attorney-client relationship is one of trust, and requires a good rapport. You must be comfortable talking to your attorney, and comfortable with their working style. Changing attorney’s mid-case too often can cause delays and cost more because new counsel needs to get up to speed, and re-strategize.
- Your Spouse – If your spouse is an unreasonable person, they could cause the legal battle to be protracted, by constantly filing motions, making long discovery requests, prolonging negotiations, or making false claims that need to be defended, just to provide a few examples.
- Your Spouse’s Attorney – some attorneys are litigators, and thrive in court; some attorneys are collaborative and want to work towards settlement. Your spouse’s counsel’s professional style and knowledge of the law can greatly increase costs by having to go to court more often.
- Additional cases – Because divorces encompass so many issues, parties could find themselves embroiled in other types of cases, like a Personal Protection Order, Criminal (i.e. Domestic Violence charges), Landlord/Tenant disputes, Child Protective Services, Paternity, Contract disputes, Small Business or Business partnerships, Appeals, etc.
- Experts – depending on the issues present your attorney may need to engage the services of an expert witness, such as a CPA, Phd Custody Evaluator, Actuary, etc. These experts all have fees associated with their investigation, review, report, and physical presence and time to testify in court. However, they can save time and heartache in the long run by providing solid facts to rely on when making final decisions (either by agreement, or if a judge needs to decide).
Divorces are like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike, and that is why the costs vary dramatically from case to case. If cost is a question (and it often is), discuss with your attorney early on what the issues are or might be, and how the attorney plans to strategically address them. By knowing this, you can get a good ballpark estimate of what to expect.
This blog post was written by attorney Lori B. Schmeltzer, at Schmeltzer Law, and is not intended as legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship. If you have questions or concerns specific to you, you are encouraged to seek qualified legal counsel.
Lori B. Schmeltzer
Schmeltzer Law PLLC